Daily Newsletter Sign-up

Register for Financial Planning Today website for FREE to view more stories and get our daily newsletters. Click on 2 stories to see Registration pop up.

Column: Has planning failed? A former planner's view

Recently Financial Planning Today editor Kevin O'Donnell posed the questions whether Financial Planning has failed to reach a wide market. Former Financial Planner Mike Middleton, now running a coaching and retirement planning business, responds in this Guest Column.

So has Financial Planning failed? This was the controversial question posed by Financial Planning Today's editor Kevin O’Donnell in a recent column.

I believe there are two ways of looking at this question and therefore two possible answers. One view is to ask: have advisers and planners failed their clients? For me the answer is a resounding no.

Being a Financial Planner today is in some ways easier than it has ever been and yet, conversely, more difficult. This contradiction is not an unusual circumstance in the modern world; however I will set out my argument.

Technology has made many things easier for planners whether producing lifetime cashflows, producing quality reports or assessing suitable products and investments. All are now easier than the sometimes laborious task of intensive reading and comparing information buried in reams of literature that was commonplace in the past.

Unfortunately, there is a “but” as technology also presents problems, aside from older clients being fazed or reluctant to engage with tech, software adds the temptation to increase oversight and enquiry.

Legislators and regulators like to be able to show the wider public how they are actively keeping an eye on regulated advisers and frequently assume that because data is available then it should be easy for an adviser to collate and send in more information than before.

How much of the regularly submitted data is checked is anyone’s guess, but we know from both medicine and teaching the amount of time spent on bureaucracy has increased and not decreased with the introduction of more technology. In this regard the life of a planner has become more difficult and of course more expensive.

None of this is to say that regulation has been a bad thing, it has mostly been a good thing. Today people know when they visit an adviser they will meet with and be advised by a suitably qualified person who is also subject to oversight and that there are mechanisms for complaint and redress if the client has been poorly advised.

With the added challenge of paperwork and oversight has come increased back office costs. Just as technology has made financial products less expensive, so other costs have risen. The knock on has often been that firms have reduced the number of clients they serve and the wealth of new clients they take on has had to increase for the business to remain profitable. The result is that more people than ever are unable to access advice and in this regard it could be said that Financial Planning has failed or is failing.

However, it should not be the role of the individual adviser to solve the advice gap on their own, make a dent maybe, or if you have a groundbreaking solution that will solve a great swathe of the advice gap, go for it. Realistically, however, most of the time the main priority the planner must be to focus on their client, serving them, serving their families and making sure their own firm is profitable, enabling them to create and support jobs which in turn support their employees and their families. 

One clear area of failure has been in the recruitment of new blood to the profession, or at least in sufficient volume to meet increased demand. At best the number of registered advisers has remained flat over the last decade.

Many businesses have invested in academies, and these are to be welcomed and encouraged, however part of the recruitment failure lies outside the scope of individual advisers and planners.

Insufficient support and encouragement in schools, colleges and universities to join what is a rewarding profession comes to mind, as does the constant drip of negative news about financial advisers from legislators and regulators alike.

If the regulator truly believes in what planners do, they could surely do more to show what a valuable and important role advisers and planners perform in the lives of the people they serve. That's one way to help grow the profession and serve more people.



Mike Middleton is a former financial adviser with over 34 years’ experience during which time he built and sold two profitable practices. One of his firms, Middleton Financial Planning, was a Senior Partner Practice of St. James's Place Wealth Management and he was involved in the firm for nearly 21 years. He was an early advocate of lifetime cashflow planning. In 2019 launched a standalone coaching and retirement planning business to help advisers create better outcomes for clients.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


From Financial Planning Jobs. For more click on any job.

This is a selection of jobs from our new Financial Planning Jobs site - for more job vacancies click on any job or the link below.


Fraser Donaldson: DFMs see avalanche of new portfolios

Investment expert Fraser Donaldson of Defaqto writes a regular column on DFMs for Financial Planning Today magazine, our sister publication and this is his latest column in the current issue to give you a taste of the column. To view Fraser's past columns and lots more content in the magazine register and subscribe to the magazine. If you are not yet registered for Financial Planning Today website do so now to find out more. Registration is free.


Georgiou: Why inhouse and out-house Paraplanning differ

Experienced Paraplanner Christina Georgiou explains why outsourced Paraplanning is not the cut-price budget option some see it as.

Being an in-house Paraplanner is such a privileged role – there’s a high demand for your skills and you can command a high salary and other benefits as a result.

I was an in-house Paraplanner for many years, even before Paraplanning was a word. I had some great roles, where I learned a tremendous amount and built up my experience. Even the not so good roles taught me a lot too.

I joined Argonaut Paraplanning, which provides outsourced Paraplanning, in July 2021. It’s been an adjustment and I had to question my preconceived biases about the quality of the work outsourced Paraplanners provide.

I found that Argonaut’s commitment to raising the standard of advice matched my own, and so, in two short years, I now find myself as co-director with Alan Gow.

What I have noticed is a perception that outsourced Paraplanning is much cheaper than in-house and this is a reason for outsourcing. However, there are significant differences.

Although Lockdown has made us all more flexible, it remains easier for in-house Paraplanners to attend client meetings and be integral to the advice process from the start.

They may also sit on Investment Committees and have compliance duties.

By contrast, many outsourced Paraplanners join the advice process part way through and there’s a wide variation in what they do. Some are report writers, some gather information, and some will do research, analysis, gap filling and help construct advice before writing the report.

I don’t believe that an advice firm should use an outsourced Paraplanner because it’s cheaper.

I believe in the right type of Paraplanner for each firm. If that’s an outsourcer, they can provide additional capacity, experience, a second pair of eyes and will complement a firm’s advice process, potentially saving time and some money too.


Christina Georgiou is a director of outsourced Paraplanning support firm Argonaut Paraplanning. She is a career Paraplanner with over 20 years’ experience.



From Financial Planning Jobs. For more click on any job.

This is a selection of jobs from our new Financial Planning Jobs site - for more job vacancies click on any job or the link below.


Caroline Stuart: Top 5 Tips for Nervous Networkers

Leading Paraplanner and former President of the PFS Caroline Stuart shares her tips on networking at events for those a little apprehensive of meeting new people. A full version of this article, which has been inspired by a LinkedIn post, will appear in the Sept-Oct edition of Financial Planning Today magazine. 

September is the beginning of financial services Conference Season, but for many, the thought of going to an event, particularly alone, can be at best daunting and at worst, bring them out in a cold, terrifying sweat.

I’ve never been a natural networker and always seemed to feel like a peanut in a packet of crisps at events. I’d be the one in the corner pretending to read a hand-out or ‘checking emails’.

That was until I went to my very first Paraplanners' Assembly in 2013, which was filled with people just like me. They were also super friendly and easy to talk to. Striking up conversation with new people was still way out of my comfort zone but I forced myself to do it and I’m so glad I did.

As a result of that very first Assembly, I now have a great group of friends, peers and colleagues and I’ve gone on to do things in my career I'd never have done if not for the confidence I’ve built, starting from that very first event. So if getting out to events feels like a real challenge, here are some of my top tips I’ve learned over the years that have helped me:

  1. Get prepared – think about a few simple universal questions you could ask anyone – where are they from?, what has been their favourite session?, etc
  2. Get Involved - If there’s an app or social media chatter about the event, try and connect with people beforehand so you have a familiar face when you get there
  3.  Take a pal! – Things are always easier with some support, can you go with a colleague or peer?
  4.  Get Introduced – If it’s more comfortable, you could ask colleagues to introduce you to people to get the ball rolling.
  5.  Remember, you are not alone – Don’t forget, others may also be nervous – if there’s someone else on their own looking a bit unsure, why not buddy up with them

Failing all of those though, if you see me at an event, you can come and practice your networking skills on me – I’m always very happy to have a natter!  


Caroline Stuart APP Chartered MSCI Caroline Stuart is the founder of outsourced Paraplanning firm Sparrow Paraplanning in Melton Mowbray. She is a multi award winning Paraplanner providing Paraplanning, report writing and technical support to UK Financial Planners and advisers. She also runs Sparrow Solutions, providing training, workshops, CPD events and operational support to Financial Planning and Paraplanning businesses www.sparrowsols.co.uk



From Financial Planning Jobs. For more click on any job.

This is a selection of jobs from our new Financial Planning Jobs site - for more job vacancies click on any job or the link below.

 Promote your vacancy to thousands of professionals on Financial Planning Jobs  
Our specialist jobs service Financial Planning Jobs can help you reach nearly 12,000 financial professionals. You can set up an Employer Profile and post your job the same day on Financial Planning Jobs (terms apply). Dozens of Financial Planning and Paraplanning firms have used our affordable service to recruit new talent.
Offer: Use code 'FPJSaver10' on checkout to save 10% on your listing. Click for details: